Volunteer or Serve?

Volunteer or Serve?

There is often a debate about what to call people who assist in children’s ministry. “Volunteer” has been the term of choice for many congregations.   You have volunteer ushers, volunteer musicians, volunteer teachers, and many other volunteers. However, I believe that by simply changing terminology, we can alter the mindset of what it means to be a part of children’s ministry.

Volunteering is not a bad thing. Volunteers make our world a better place, so why change what we call those who volunteer in children’s ministry?  One reason for not using the term “volunteer” can be found by looking at the model of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus is our Savior and our Teacher.  As a leader, we need to be like Jesus. He didn’t ask His disciples to volunteer in His ministry. He asked them to follow Him and to serve Him.  When your team members are asked to serve, they take ownership.  They serve with intense purpose. One who is merely volunteering is more inclined to stop volunteering when life gets too hectic or when a better volunteer opportunity arises.  One term I have used instead of “volunteer” is “worker.” However, even “worker” can cause someone to view working in children’s ministry more like a job than a ministry.

I knew that God was leading me in a vocabulary change, so after spending time in thought and prayer, God gave me the word SERVE. That is exactly what Jesus asked, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26, NIV). I use SERVE as an acronym that heads the monthly assignment board for my team.

S: selfless  E: enthusiastic  R: reliable  V: vowed  E: excellent

A children’s ministries team is a team committed to serving children. As much as I love to lead, I am not as effective without my team. I don’t think of my team as volunteers because we are working together to serve children.  Each of us has special gifts that contribute to the ministry.  If someone leaves the team, it needs to be God-led and not just because they are done volunteering. The children in our ministries need teams of servant leaders, so they have a village of God-fearing individuals who have a vested interest in their spiritual growth.

Ministry is not a volunteer position or a routine. It is a privilege to be chosen and serve.  May God bless you as you create and lead a SERVE Team (not volunteers!) in your ministries.


Contributing Author: Judy Brittingham

Judy Brittingham is the children’s ministry director at Hickory Valley Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  She has a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Administration degree from Lincoln Memorial University.  Judy had the privilege of teaching music to children for 32 years.  In addition to ministry to children, she is the director of training choirs with the Chattanooga Boys choir.  Judy and her husband Robert have been married for 38 years and have two grown children and two cats!

Four Books That Shaped My Ministry to Children

Four Books That Shaped My Ministry to Children

It is often said that the very best leaders are readers. Through reading, we have the opportunity to develop personally, grow in their skill, expand their knowledge, and seek ways to better lead their teams.

As I have worked with various types of leaders in the church, I often find that children’s ministers are most active and motivated to pursue constant personal development.

As I consider my development as a children’s minister, since first being called to this marvelous ministry 27 years ago, I have recognized that a number of resources helped shape my ministry at pivotal moments. These books challenged, inspired, and informed my perspective on children’s ministry and my role as a children’s minister.

Below you will find just enough detail about each book that I hope you might be encouraged to add them to your personal collection.


Children’s Ministry that Works | Group Publishing

“Once you identify the needs and interest of children in your church, you can develop a children’s ministry kids won’t be able to resist. A children’s ministry should lay a foundation for children. It can only do that if churches focus energy, creativity, and careful thought on making children’s ministry a first-class, important ministry-so that people see it as a real ministry, not just babysitting.”

– “Children’s Ministry that Works,” Jolene L. Roehlkepartain

When I was first called to children’s ministry, my local children’s pastor presented me with my first copy of Children’s Ministry that Works: The Basics and Beyond!This book quickly became THE children’s ministry manual for me and laid the foundation that all other training and experiences would be built upon.

Divided into four parts, this book provides insights from CM practitioners in the areas of:

Part One: Children’s Ministry Foundations
Part Two: Teaching Techniques
Part Three: Age-Specific Ministries
Part Four: Children’s Ministry Programs

This book is a wonderful reference tool and guide, recently revised and updated, addressing everything from nursery ministry to creative classroom techniques, ministry vision casting to ministering to special needs children.

The impact of this book has been so significant to my ministry to kids that I have since provided copies of it to individuals who express to me that they too have been “called” to children’s ministry.


Whose Child is This? | Bill Wilson

“When you stand before the Lord, He will not ask if you were successful, but rather, ‘Were you faithful?’ I believe that Sunday school should be the most exciting hour of the week. It should attract the largest number of young people possible. But that is not what will open heaven’s door-for me for the young people we work so hard to reach. Each of us must have a personal relationship with Christ. And it is only through the faithfulness of that preaching and setting the example that seeds will be sown that will never die.”
– “
Whose Child is This?,” Bill Wilson

Whose Child is This? shares the personal and ministry testimony of Bill Wilson, the Founder and Senior Pastor of Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, New York. Metro Ministries is the largest Sunday School in the world and reaches over 50,000 inner city children and their families every week in New York City and around the world.

This book is a moving and challenging story of the hardships faced by many of today’s children. It recounts the stories of boys and girls struggling in poverty, abandonment, and neglect. Yet in the midst of such hopelessness, Bill Wilson and his team have shared the light of God’s love by serving both the spiritual and physical needs of tens of thousands of children.

At two specific times in my personal ministry, Whose Child is This?returned as a source of inspiration and encouragement. In both instances it was a catalyst that motivated my ministry to launch outreach efforts in the communities I served. As you read Bill’s personal testimony of salvation as a child and the strategy that led him to establish such a significant ministry, I suspect you too will be challenged to find ways to reach our beyond the walls of your local ministry.


Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kids Week | Sue Miller with David Staal

“When children’s ministry believes that what it does really matters, there will be openness to try new approaches. All will realize that it’s okay for ministry to look different to reach different people. Jesus provided this when he used a variety of methods-mountainside sermons, individual conversations, even a handful of spit and mud. He still uses all sorts of people to reach and teach others, as long as they believe what they do matters.”

      –Sue Miller with David Staal

I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I was hired as a full-time children’s pastor. The excitement and anticipation of getting paid to do what I was called to do was quickly overshadowed by the realization that a team of volunteers and scores of families were looking to me to help guide the spiritual development of our church’s children.

For me, Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kids Weekbecame an essential leadership book in guiding the redevelopment of our existing children’s ministry. Sue Miller opens the book by describing the processes she went through when assuming leadership of the children’s ministry at Willow Creek Community Church. Following her account, she guides the reader through these processes enabling you to identify and develop the building blocks of an effective children’s ministry. She addresses the areas vision-casting, core values, small group ministry, volunteer recruitment and management.

The book includes both personal and team exercises, making it a useful resource to study with your leadership or volunteer team.


Give Me Jesus: Gospel-Centered Children’s Ministry that Changes Lives | Ryan Frank, General Editor

“We live in a time when too many curricula, churches, and children’s ministries have lost their focus-a focus on the gospel. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and all its truth, there are many who opt for what will attract and keep families … Too often we downplay the lifesaving truth in order to accomplish other goals. But placing the gospel message at the center of everything, and keeping it simple, is the master key that unlocks the door to a successful, fruit-bearing children’s ministry.”

Ryan Frank, General Editor

Give Me Jesus is a collection of writings from veteran voices in children’s ministry. The book is built on three important ideas:

  • Children are important to God
  • Children are important to you.
  • Children are important to the church.

Guided by these three ideas, each article relates the gospel message to a children’s ministry area of focus, including topics such as partnering with youth ministry, the gospel in the digital age, equipping influencers of children, and discipleship strategies for children.

Every time I pick up this book, I gain some new insights into children’s ministry in our current times. I find myself challenged once again to ensure that the truth of the gospel is central in all my ministry efforts.

Give Them Jesus provides practical strategies for ministries that are current and will help re-center them on the transforming power of the gospel.

-Shaun McKinley, International Director of Children’s Ministries

Children who are serving NOW!

Children who are serving NOW!

We recently asked children’s ministers to share how children in their churches are making a difference in their world. In this month’s blog, we want to share some of those stories.

Lillian Tolbert
Lillian is nine years old and in the fourth grade.  Not too long ago, she discovered that one of her best friends at school, Mira, lived just a few houses down the street from her. They began spending time together in their neighborhood, as well as, at school.

She and Mira sometimes talked about Jesus, and Lillian invited Mira to come to Kidz Konnection at her church on Wednesday evenings.  Now Mira and her younger sister Jocelyn come with Lillian every week.


Scarlette Reid
Scarlette Reid is nine years old and attends the Old Harbour Bay COGOP in Jamaica. One of the ways Scarlette shines her light is by helping her grandmother clean the church. Scarlette helps to ensure that the church building is clean and ready for worship on a Sunday Morning. She is often seen with her grandmother cleaning, sweeping, dusting, mopping, and clearing away the garbage. This has allowed all who worship in the building to feel more comfortable.  She is never forced to do it. She does it because she likes working for the Lord.


Andrew Johnson
During Easter this year, Andrew created a story at church using stones to retell the Easter story. He shared the story at school with his fellow classmates and asked them to say the sinner’s prayer with him.





Gracen Johnson
Gracen Johnson is twelve years old and loves to honor God when she plays basketball. Before every game, she gathers her team to pray in a huddle with their coach. They pray for safety before the game.  She feels this is a great way to share God with those watching the game and with the girls on her team who do not attend church.




Nichaila Robinson
Nichaila is ten years old. She was saved in 2015 and baptized in 2016. Nichaila experienced the healing power of God in 2013 when she had to be hospitalized for chronic pneumonia. Through the prayers of her family and other believers, Nichaila was completely healed. She was released from the hospital, as the doctors saw no sign of the pneumonia they had diagnosed.

She continues to witness to her friends at school about God’s healing power and His grace to save them.  Nichaila was the preacher in the children’s ministries session at the convention at St. Catherine East, Jamaica.


Young Ambassadors for Christ
A group of children in the United Kingdom, known as Young Ambassadors for Christ, holds a concert each year to raise money for Helping Hands for Kids. In 2016, they raised £ 200 for an orphanage India, helping to provide funding for the purchase of playground equipment. In 2017, they raised £ 700 for Venezuelan pastors’ children to assist with providing essential supplies such as food, personal care items, clothing, and school supplies.  In 2018, they raised £708.54 for outreach in Frydek-Místek, Czech Republic, to children who are living in a neighborhood with easy access to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.  In the words of 11 year old Jamine Bryan, a member of the Young Ambassadors for Christ, “I feel really good that us being children of God in this country are able to give to children that may not have enough in different countries and are able to give them the opportunity to know more about God. And this is how I shine my light through the darkness.”



We asked our community, “How can the church better serve you and your family?”  The overwhelming response was, “Help our kids.”  This led us to pray and research the needs of our unique rural area.  Helping community children meant transporting them to church since many of their families didn’t attend church anywhere.  A bus ministry team visited and invited lots of children.  At first, we attempted to pick up every child and meet every need.  Eventually the opportunities became overwhelming.  It was obvious we needed to simplify and focus.

We chose to work simply from the command of the Great Commission, preach the gospel and make disciples.  Systematic bus routes, visiting door to door, and tracking contacts helped increase ministry efficiency.  As new children arrived, teachers taught on salvation and presented each child with the opportunity to respond.  Children received an invitation to participate in a discipleship growth track.

A sense of fellowship and belonging soon followed.  Children began participating in the corporate worship and serving in roles alongside adults.  Child leaders began to emerge.  Active student-led ministries developed.  The results were miraculous.  To God be All the Glory for helping us to keep it simple.


  • Develop Bus Routes
    • Tip: Focus on children/families near the church first, then branch out.  If you don’t have a bus, recruit families willing to bring a child to church. The volunteer family becomes responsible for mentoring the child.
  • Home Visits
    • Tip: Smiles and cookies can open a lot of doors and hearts.
  • Family Supper
    • Tip: Create a time to share a meal with students and invite families.
  • Celebrate Milestones
    • Tip: Births, Baby Dedications, First Day of School, Salvations, Baptisms, First Bibles, Graduations, etc.  Always invite the family.
  • Develop A Social Media Plan 
    • Tip: Create a private/secret group for your children’s ministry and a parent’s only group.
  • Create a simple Growth Track
    • Tip: Base it on the Know, Grow & Go model.

Our continued vision is to provide simple opportunities for children to encounter God’s love in new and exciting ways and be forever changed by the power of the Gospel.  In summary…

  1. We focused on prayer.
  2. Our pastor committed to revival.
  3. Staff saw and understood the divine purpose of reaching the unchurched.
  4. We returned to the basics.
  5. We committed to equip and release children into ministry.


Contributing Author:

Karen V. Coley
Pre-Teen Coordinator
Roberts Tabernacle
Westmoreland, Tennessee

Preparing Preteens to Thrive in Youth Group and Beyond…

Preparing Preteens to Thrive in Youth Group and Beyond…

I once spoke with the parent of a student in our youth ministry who made a statement that has helped to re-shape the way I conceptualize and prepare the students that I influence. The mother stated, “I am not preparing my children for me but rather to be successful among others.”

As a youth minister, that defining statement caused me to:

  • Re-Pent – I repented for only preparing students for the next levels (pre-teens to teens, teens to young adults, young adults to adults) within our church.
  • Re-Think– I now realize that I must prepare students to thrive and be successful wherever their God-given destinies take them.
  • Re-Shape – I now more clearly understand that I must take a “holistic approach” (body, soul, and spirit) to ministry.
  • Re-lease– I now prepare and release students to be successful beyond the life span of our church.

How do we prepare pre-teens to thrive in youth groups and beyond?

As a youth Minister and behavioral health specialist, I invite leaders to conceptualize and minister to students from a bio-psycho-social-spiritual perspective.  In order for students to be successful, we must provide resources that address every area of their lives. “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Prepare students by taking into account:


Biological Psychological Social Spiritual
Genetics History of Trauma Support System Have they accepted Christ?
Birth and History Experience with grief/loss Peer Influence Have they questioned/reasoned their faith?


Illnesses (Past & Present) Impact of significant relationships (parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, etc.)


Housing Issues Can they defend and share their faith?
Medications Current Stressors Financial Issues How does their faith help them cope with life’s issues?


Substances Coping Skills (life’s issues) School/Vocational
As a leader, have you successfully equipped students to engage and evangelize their world?


Engagement with agencies/community resources As leaders, provide spiritual formation in the context of authentic relationships and community.


I’m not preparing a son. I’m preparing someone’s husband and someone’s father”- Social Media Post.

“A man that has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father.” (Coogler, Feige, & Grant, 2018).


Feige, K. (Producer), Grant, D. (Producer), & Coogler, R. (Director). 2018. Black Panther [Motion Picture]. United States. Marvel Studios.

Contributing Author: Morais L. Cassell, Behavioral Health Specialist; MA, MS, Ph.D. (Candidate).


Children Experiencing God

Children Experiencing God

In June, I had an experience that filled me with joy and thanksgiving. I was serving as the evangelist at a summer camp in Tennessee. The first night of camp, I walked into the chapel where 109 eight-, nine- and ten-year-old kids were worshiping. They weren’t just singing songs and moving to the rhythm; they were worshiping with hands raised high and voices emphatically strong. And that was just the first night. Each night these campers worshiped vibrantly; they actively listened to God’s Word; they humbly received prayer ministry; and they passionately prayed for others. God honored their worship.

During these times of worship children came to the altar with tears of conviction streaming down their face; they believed and were saved. They raised their hands and in faith received Holy Spirit baptism. They boldly prayed for others around them until they too were laughing with Holy Spirit joy and speaking in heavenly languages. They reverently took communion. Filled with agape love, they moved through the chapel experiencing true Christian fellowship with one another. And again, as they worshiped God and loved one another, God’s presence filled the chapel.

Worship is a must for kids. Through worship children’s minds focus on God, their emotions sense His presence, and their wills yield to His. Through worship children experience the reality of God—His nearness, His love, His comfort, His guidance and more. They realize that God is not just someone you read about in the Bible.  He is real.  He is near.  He responds to their prayers and their praises.

Through worship children “rise up” to do the good works of ministry—acts of compassion, intercession, testimony, and sacrificial giving.  During ministry time one evening as the presence of God became real to each child, a young girl was baptized in the Holy Spirit. In continued worship, she moved to her friend who was handicapped. She hugged her friend and prayed for healing. Her worship had inspired faith-filled ministry.

Through worship children say “yes” to God for a lifetime. During this kids’ camp one of the senior staff members reminded me of a children’s revival that he participated in when he was only twelve years old. During worship at that children’s revival, the lights went out. The minister reminded the children that the early Christians often worshiped in the darkness of the caves. This reminder inspired the children to continue worshiping. Soon every child responded in praise to God and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. This staff member not only received Holy Spirit baptism but was also called into ministry. He accepted that call and has served as a pastor throughout his adult life.

During Jesus’ last week here on earth he was in the Temple doing miraculous things. The children saw the wonderful things he was doing—healing and forgiving—and they began to shout praises. The wicked religious leaders questioned Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”  Matthew 21:16

Do you hear what the children are saying? Yes. Even today God continues to order His praise from the lips and hearts of our children so that His kingdom can be established in their lives and in their world.


Contributing Author: Kathy Creasy

Kathy is the International Children’s Ministry Director for the Church of God of Prophecy.  It is through her leadership that this Developing Leaders, Impacting Kids website operates.  She has a  Masters of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and a certificate in Children’s Ministry from Lancaster Bible University. Kathy is committed to providing encouragement and training to those who serve children. Kathy is married to Rick Creasy.  They have two sons and three wonderful grandchildren.




Kids and Raising Money for Missions

Kids and Raising Money for Missions

Part of ministry to children is teaching them to serve Christ by serving others. Involving kids in a missions project is a wonderful opportunity to help meet this goal. These projects typically involve raising money, and children are often a bit unsure of how to handle this challenge.  Beyond asking their parents for money or dipping into their small savings, how can they raise money? Below are some ideas for how you can help children earn money for missions.  Hopefully these ideas will help you as you prepare to involve your children in the Helping Hands for Kids 2017 project- “Do Your Part: Helping Venezuela’s Pastors’ Kids.”

  • Generate excitement about the missions project! Use the materials provided at children.cogop.org to help children truly understand the need and how they can make a difference.  There are ideas for teaching children about the culture of Venezuela, the needs of the people, prayer ideas, and much more.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to teach your children to have the hearts of servants.
  • Guide the children in preparing a presentation for their parents and grandparents, similar to a project they might do for school. Provide the children with poster board, art supplies, and pictures related to the project for which they they want to raise money.  Once they have prepared a visual board, help them practice using their board to share with adults about the project.  When children invest their time and effort into explaining the missions need, adults are more likely to give.
  • Ask an adult who is gifted in the area of media production to help children create a video to share in church and on social media. For example, the children at my church were raising money for Christians in Nepal to purchase chickens and goats.  Each child shared just one or two sentences about the need.  We filmed in different outdoor settings, and we even found someone with pet goats who let us film part of the video at their house.  Once it was edited, this was a wonderful tool for sharing about the mission project.
  • Be creative in helping children discover ways to raise money. One of the children at my church lives near a bookstore that purchases used books.  This child gathered up books she had finished reading, sold them, and gave the money to missions.  Another child held a traditional bake sale after church to raise money.  If yard sales or garage sales are popular in your area, this would also be a great project for the children to do together.

I love watching the excitement of children when they realize that they are truly making a difference in the world.  Beyond just making a difference, however, it is my prayer that they will know and understand the words of Jesus….”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV)


Click for more information about the 2017 Helping Hands for Kids Project.



Entrusting Our Treasured Possessions

Entrusting Our Treasured Possessions

There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for parenting. From the time that first cry pierces the air of the delivery room, your life is split in half, and you suddenly feel the unimaginable joy but also intense responsibility as a caregiver. For me, it was as if my heart was taken out of its chest, swaddled up and placed in a window display for everyone to examine. Never had I felt so elated and yet also so vulnerable. Continue reading

Family and Church Working Together

Family and Church Working Together

I have often heard the African proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child” being quoted by school teachers, pediatricians, and even pastors to reiterate to parents how important it is for them to never forget that they are not alone on their journey through child-rearing. Parents need other parents. As a matter of fact, people need other people! Our wise Creator designed us to be relational beings whose hearts are most satisfied when they are able to give and receive LOVE. This truth applies to both young and old alike. Continue reading

The “Wow” Factor

The “Wow” Factor

One Sunday during children’s church, I called my husband up to the front of the class. As he was coming, a child yelled out, “He’s about to do something awesome, isn’t he?” With that statement, I knew they identified him with the object lessons and science experiments that we use during children’s ministry. It also let me know that I had to start doing some of them myself to maintain my “cool” status! Continue reading